There are three of them. Jerry, slouched in his high back, technically designed, $3000, office chair to my right. Nameless, his back squarely to my face, in the middle. William, arranged in a "casual" position around a stuffy, little, blue, cubical chair, on my left. They each have three or more computer screens in front of them. The computers occasionally beep or blurp or make some other technical sound, at which the men in front of the computers will press a button, adjust his head phone or pick up the phone.
These men are dispatchers. Emergency dispatchers. And they are hardcore.
I'm sure the fresh, blond, professional with her perfect posture and white pressed uniform resides somewhere under these men's fingertips. In the phone? Between the keys on the keyboard? Or in their matching Mardi Gra necklesses they dawned for national dispatcher week?
Jerry has a sharp, skinny nose, a perfect match for the rest of his body. He slouches even when he walks. His hair never grew out of the "bowl cut" his mama gave him when he was six years old; the only thing different between now and when he was six is the addition of a six o'clock shadow (which I'm guessing he added somewhere in his late twenties). Whatever Jerry says, walks the "should I laugh?" line, and he never does laugh... until you do, then he smiles.
Nameless could be any classic stereotype that you make him. Or was it just the stereotypes that he threw over his shoulder, or swiveled in his chair to emphasize? Ask him about Boston someday (he won't talk about the fall colors). Nameless sported a pony-tail and worker boots with blue-jeans. He hunts, feeds his "long-necked pigs" (aka horses), and works hard organizing the emergency world.
William talked. A lot. He kept his chair facing me, turning only to answer the crackle of the radio, only to turn back again and pick up in mid-sentence. I could cut him out of the dispatch center and glue him onto a golf-course with a beer in hand. He would fit perfectly -without any photoshopping. William is leaving the dispatch world to become a full-time wedding photographer. He was anxious to leave.
But, he cares.
These men answered each phone call with grace, integrity and respect. I wanted to laugh at the 18 year-old boy who wrecked his mini cooper and was wandering the street in his bathrobe, and the little old lady with amnesia who kept reporting that her son had taken her car and she wanted it back, and the man who was chasing down a low-riding, tented honda, full of men, who he saw swipe his neighbors gas can. Their eyes would twinkle, but they never gossiped or trash-talked the callers.
Here's to Snuff, Rough and Guff. The heroes on the other side of your phone. They know what they are doing.
*I meant it to laugh *with* these guys, but... once I started writing... well? I couldn't hold it back.